This paper describes the author's experiences as a Study Leader for a Smithsonian group that traveled across Soviet Central Asia in September 1988. Speaking both Russian and Turkish, the author had many revealing conversations with people of both the indigenous nationalities and Russians living in the region, and he provides here a verbatim record of highlights of those conversations. The group visited historic sites, religious monuments, museums, educational institutions, and markets. The paper includes observations on availability of food and consumer goods, official and unofficial prices, and conditions of life in Samarkand, Tashkent, Urgench, Khiva, and Alma Ata. There is a good deal of information on the progress of glasnost and perestroika and the expectations and fears of inhabitants as a result of Gorbachev's reforms. The paper concludes with a description of an overland journey from Alma Ata to the Chinese border, where the group cross into Sinkiang-Uighur autonomous region at Khorgos.